Sunday, January 31, 2016

That's Alberta

Photos from Richard Johnson

That's Alberta.
And it is like the opera.
If watching it in a theatre is good,
being there is even better.
A hunter's photo.
A deer track that jumps the fence.
A photo I took on my way to hunting. 
Mountains, foothills and prairies. 
 My Alberta.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Improving My Cooking Skills

Aunt Erva's Way ... and Moiya's Way
There are 2 ways to make cinnamon buns: Aunt Erva’s way and Virginia Johnson’s way.

The latter has an edge on timing.

Make a sponge, then put in more flour, roll and put in pans and I can whip that up, have it cooked and on the table in less than two hours. I made those for Alex’s friends. They were appropriately grateful.

But the next day Alex asked me if I knew how to make cinnamon buns Aunt Moiya’s way, where every strip is covered on every side with a cinnamon-sugar glaze.

Aunt Moiya’s way? I am still laughing. Moiya would be the first one to say that she rarely makes them, and Wyona makes them even less. Hard to believe that Moiya got all of the glory in this case.

And yes, the quick ones are good, but the jury has spoken about the ultimate in cinnamon buns – at least from Alex.  Always make them Aunt Moiya's way.


Chow Mien

...always have those little suckers
on reserve in your cupboard ...
I have to think ahead if I am going to make chow mien. Chicken chow mien was what I thought would be good. Not everyone can pull bok choy out of their cupboard, nor have shitake mushrooms in their pantry. I had all of the ingredients that I needed on a list. And Rebecca and I looked at the dried noodles for a long time in the grocery store, to see which ones would really do the job.

My goal was to make a noodle dish that Duncan would like.

I came close.

Not close enough. “If you don’t like it, just take it back to the kitchen,” said Steve to Duncan a little later from the sanctuary of their TV gaming monitors. “What could be wrong”, I wondered aloud to Duncan. “I want to do it right next time.”

“The noodles are too short. You can’t twist them on the fork and get them up to your mouth.”

Who would have known? No hit here tonight with my culinary skills.  I would have thought it was the mushrooms that would have gone down.

There are plenty of other noodles on the grocery shelves for me to try.

 And I am not dead yet.


Turandot - Review

Here is the fall review of Turandot, being seen by us tomorrow, or on one of its many encores.

My suspicion is that it will be sold out tomorrow in Victoria.

Well, two reviews really for the Latin Post gave one up to me as I was looking for a picture.

This is the show with the more encores.

Look for it again March 19, 21st and 23rd.


Family Night at NT Live

I don’t know where the night went weird. Maybe at the beginning when the family stopped at the 7-11 to get their treats for the movie. Alex bought 4 cans of Rock Star Monster Drink and was happy to have so much liquid cheaper than he can buy it at the concession. Steve and I stayed in the car and shook our heads as the candy lovers gave themselves 3 minutes to get in and out of the store, and that included going through the till.  I told Steve I had stopped in there earlier to find something to keep me awake in case the show got too long.  But I went up and down the candy isles and couldn't find a thing I wanted.  Steve doesn't have a sweet tooth so he doesn't understand what happens to the rest of us when we need sugar.

Steve and I went into theatre 8.

Rebecca, Alex, Duncan and Ben went to theatre 10. They were making a good guess but not looking at their ticket stubs. The NT Live show is always there in theatre 10. Steve and I looked at the marque and staked out good seats in the correct theatre. I began to wonder if I was wrong but Steve mentioned, “No, the table with the handout was outside our theatre as well as a table cloth and a bouquet of flowers.  They always set it up that way.”

 He was right, for the last time I was there, I even checked out the flowers to see if they were real or silk. When that group finally made the connection that they were in the wrong theatre, and consequently joined us, that is when I could see our group breaking up into different groups – Steve going to a place where he could stretch out his legs, Rebecca and the boys taking the back seats high up in the IMAX, and I staked out a position four fifths of the way up.

Donmar Warehouse production of
Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Les Liaisons Dangereuses – a wonderful film but we hadn’t told anyone much about the story line. In fact, sometimes it is a sheer act of will to get everyone into the car. I watched as the men walked along: Steve now shorter than all three of the boys. At the end of the night, when we had come home, critiquing film on the ride back, I thanked Rebecca for a lovely evening.  A little weird for it took us some time to just get to the same theatre, and then we parted company and all sat in different places.

“I don’t know how lovely it was. Hey kids, lets go see a film about sexual impropriety. Don’t think I can call that one Family Home Evening” she said, shaking her head.

In an interval interlude, Christopher Hampton, the playwright, mentioned that the original book was originally written in an epistolary novel. I can remember reading Pamela and Clarissa, both of which are written in that form, as well as Dracula and The Color Purple. But I haven’t read this book.

One of the joys of this performance is that there is a free audiobook of extracts from the original novel by Choderios de Lacios. Produced by Audible the recording features members of the cast of the Dnmar Warehouse production. Download the free audiobook by visiting

Coming next is As you Like It on Feb 25 and then Hangmenby Martin McDonagh on March 3.

Do you know what is curious to me? Again the theatre was not even one-fifth full. Strange how the opera packs the theatre full but there isn’t a taste for theatre here.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016


Bonnie Wyora told me that I would be lucky if I were in Victoria and could sit in on Rebecca’s Business Associations Class. I got here when she was teaching Criminal Law. I don’t know if that makes me lucky, or luckier. I sit on the far side of the class, alone. The rest of the students sit close to each other in groups, for during the class, at least once, they have to break into groups and solve a problem that she gives them. I try to solve the problem on my own. I tae careful notes – just in case there will be a test at the end. Yesterday was “Willful Abandonment of a Child” and “On Providing the Necessities of Life”, among other topics. At the very least I am learning to spell actus reus and mens rea.

Rebecca’s retired colleague, Haymar Foster, was giving a guest lecture during the lunch hour: Another Good Thing: The Decision of the Yukon Court of Appeal in the Ross Rover Case (or Indigenous Title, Presentism” in Law and History and a Judge Begbie Puzzle Re-Visited)”. Again I had my paper and pencil out, writing down the three propositions of his paper as though there would be a test at the end of the lecture, or the day or the week. Or perhaps I think these tests will be done in heaven.

Whenever that final questionnaire is handed out, I will be ready.

I want at least a passing grade.


Monday, January 25, 2016

Never Be Late ...

I am still laughing about the announcement in the theatre on Sunday that the ballet will be shown later  in the year on the east coast.  No one on the east coast could see the announcement, for they were all snowed in, which is the reason that the ballet has to be rescheduled.

For some reason this made me remember a song that we used to sing at the beginning of Sunday school in the 1950's.  The title was "Never be Late to the Sunday School" (p. 158).  My dad would lean over to me and say, "Why are they making us sing this song.  We are all on time.  They should make all of the people who come in late, stand up and sing it later."

I heard this more than once from him, and for some reason I thought about his words again, when all of us who are not snowbound, did get to the theatre, only to see the announcement that was meant for others who didn't get there.

And speaking of being on time ... the happy day came for me that I got off of the opiates and took my meds back.

That was clear back in December.

I can't remember if I posted this picture, but here is happy me. Wearing Rebecca's Cowachin sweater and showing the inside of the bag of pills I am returning to the druggist -- so happy to see the last of them.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Ballet and Me

I went to the ballet alone today. Alone in a theatre that was only 1/10 full. Looks like ballet is not the Victorian’s favorite form of the arts. Or perhaps they are all busy as Rebecca was.

I am working on learning to like the ballet. I don’t think anything of doing homework before I go to the opera or the theatre. But with the ballet, I don’t even know where to begin the homework. In the reviews I spotted the words “precise bourres” and a “backward glissade”, so I started there on the internet – wonderful utube and became intrigued.

The music was Shostakovich, 24 pieces of his selected by the conductor. His widow was watching the production in France. Now that made the conductor feel present. I enjoyed watching the patrons of the ballet in the foyer, always looking for someone who looks like me. No women with white hair that I could see. Then I remember that some places in the world, there is a high value to keeping colour in one’s hair.

Some kinds of homework were done years ago – learning the names of the characters in the play, remembering the arc of the story line, bringing to the story, now a feminist perspective which makes the story darker than before, crushing, really.

The colour palette was black ad white, except for the blue skirt of Bianca and the green silk dress of Katerina. Remember the Elizabeth Taylor / Richard Burton production of The Taming of the Shrew. I can still remember the colour on the buildings and the streets of Padua. And now I see the story performed by the Bolshoi. Magnificent. Don Quixote will be live April 16. A joy to take 2 hours and see ballet.

One other curious thing. Before the ballet started there was an announcement on the screen that because the east coast of the United States is experiencing extreme weather conditions, the ballet will be re-scheduled for them at a different time. Since they are not to go out of their houses unless absolutely necessary, I am wondering which of them was watching that announcement.


Saturday, January 23, 2016

NT Live - Les Liaisons Dangereuses

I was holding my head tonight. Rebecca asked me if it were aching.


I just had my hand to my forehead trying to figure out how I am going to get to Les Liaisons Dangereuses on Thursday, since all of the specials seem to be tumbling in on each other. I missed Florence and the Uffizii Gallery last week. I don’t want to miss much more.  Michael Billington, Susannah Clapp and Ben Beaumont-Thomas give wonderful reviews on the play.
Janet McTeer and Dominic West 
in Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Photograph: Johan Persson

Wyona told me she really doesn't like the story.

I have to read the reviews so that I can go.

I can’t take too much anxiety about who will live, who will die, who will conquer and who will be vanquished in the shows I am seeing lately.

I go to the reviews and carefully sketch out the characters, their connections, who will rise and who will fall -- there just are not going to be any surprises in the plot for me, unless the director makes drastic changes after the reviews are written.

I am a coward.

I like to get my surprises from the lighting or the framing or the sound.

That is enough excitement for me.

On the point of not liking the story, I have to think about all of the stories I have been seeing:  Hamlet,  MacBeth, ....

Where, oh where is a good comedy!


Ballet - The Taming of the Shrew

Ekaterina Krysanova and Vladislav Lantratov
in The Taming of the Shrew
Absolutely and positively too tired to move a muscle, even to tired to go to bed, I thought I would rest at my computer and see what Bachtalk had to say about the Bolshoi Ballet's production of The Taming of the Shrew.

Bad mistake about taking a look at the review.

Now I am dying to go.

Worse still Ballet Alert!'s review is equally impressive.  Who wants to read "this kind of work seemed to have everything".

Will those muscles that are too tired to move tonight be able to make it the show tomorrow.

I hope so.


Family Film Night

Steve cued up the film The Martians and invited anyone who hadn’t seen it yet to spend the evening watching with him.

I am always available for a film – any film, especially genres with which I haven’t had very much experience. Good to expand my film repertoire. If a film has some suspense, I like to read the reviews before hand. I have enough anxiety in real life that I want to miss any tension that is artificial. If the protagonist is going to die, just let me know it up front. I had no time to do this, but partway into the film, I could remember having read a review of this movie in the newspaper. Ah. Calming.

The film was produced by Twentieth Century Fox. When I was young that name seemed progressive. Yes … the twentieth century. The film opened I wondered why they don’t change their name to Twenty-First Century Fox to keep up the times. And then I thought they need to be cheered – still keeping a company afloat after so many years.

I like sitting in films at home with the family. If there is a question you can whisper it, or make a comment, or laugh longer and see that someone beside you is loving the joke as well. Good to be with friends.

I wanted to know why the word Sol 1, Sol 2, etc. appeared on the screen as Mark Watney (Matt Damon) was making a video tape of his life on Mars. Everyone made good guesses. No one knew.

I had to go to the internet today to discover that Sol is the “term used by planetary astronomers to refer to the duration of a solar day on Mars. A mean Martian solar day, or “sol” is 24 hours, 39 minutes and 35.244 seconds.

So sci-fi, a lot of subtle wit and science used speak about and solve problems. What was there not to like about that evening with the family at the movies?


Legal Process

First year law classes were cancelled for two days so that all of the students could participate in Legal Process learnings.

Three residential school survivors took the first part of the Legal Process morning, telling their stories, their dark stories from the days of their days in residential schools. Little five year olds taken to residential school – no longer allowed to speak their own language, and in his case, raped, and fingers on both hands broken when corporal punishment was administered.

Plenty of tears were spilled by the audience, enough that there tissue boxes placed on the ends of the student tables which are really long risers in a large classroom. Barney Williams Jr., Butch Dick and Carla from the support centre spoke.

A panel of people who worked with the Truth and Reconciliation hearings followed them. I can’t believe those hearings went across Canada and I didn’t ever go to any of the public events. Some times I live a life in a bubble, I think. Sheila Roger, the Sheila Rogers from CBC radio, is the Chancellor at the University of Victoria, as well as an honorary witness to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. She was the last speaker; she spoke elegantly. She looked over the audience. She looked at the previous speakers and then quietly ripped her talk in half and said that she was going to speak from the heart today and put aside the words she had planned to speak.

Speaking from the heart seems to be going on in many places.

The Graduate Class came here for a make-up lecture. They came in the evening, instead of in the morning, so Rebecca said there would be pizza and a class. But finding she had some people who couldn’t eat pizza, she changed the menu and we had mostly vegetarian fare, since I was available to her in the kitchen. I was touched when the note take for the class said in his single spaced 2-page summary the following day:
 “Class was held at Rebecca’s house. To be honest, I remember the food most clearly. The food was delicious. Living rooms and food are better at nurturing conversation than board rooms and non-food.”
Yes to more learning in living rooms with access to tables laden with food.


Friday, January 22, 2016

Jane Eyre

... image from National Theatre website ...
The National Theatre production of Jane Eyre has an encore tomorrow.

I am going back.

This time to listen to the woman in red.

And to pay attention to the dog/actor when it first comes on the set.  And to watch for the transformation of Jane from a baby to a child to a governess to a woman with means.  And to watch the wicked step-mother.  Every story has one.  And   to look at the band on stage for the whole show.  A treat.

How lucky to get a second chance at the show!

Just so nobody will be disappointed, this is not the opear -- no fantastic costuming, no stirring choruses, no dancing, no subtitles ... just Jane Eyre.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Locked out

The hitch for me is that when I leave the house, I always think I will be able to re-enter the house. Someone is always home. That is true except on the days when Dave cleans, I guess, for when I come back and he is gone the house is like a fortress – there is no way to get in. Last week was fine. I sat outside and waited until Duncan came home with a key. That is the nice thing about Victoria. You can sit outside and there is no chance of freezing to death.

This week I walked home after attending Legal Process for the first year students on Wednesday. I was not the only parent there, but the only one with a job. I stayed in the hall and pointed students in the direction of the pre-conference coffee and muffins. After the morning event I headed out for home. Only to find it locked again. Even with instructions about how to key myself back in, I hadn’t practiced, and Gillian Calder says that I was unsuccessful because I have brought with me my 20th Century skills into a new era – one where you don’t hit the button twice if it has a 7 and an 8 on it. Just hit it once. But like everything in life for me, what once worked, might not be working in the new world. So locked out twice? That was my chance to do more walking – to I headed back to the law school to hang out there until the door I wanted to be opened for me, could be opened. On the bonus side, a few months ago I couldn’t have done that walk. Not even the first third of it. Now I am both strong and confident.


New floor, new walls, new ceiling, new windows

... image the countertops are on ...
... imagine the sink is in ...
 ... image this used to be the area at the right
of the stairs in the basement ...
It is raining here in Victoria and I don't know how the grass can get greener.

Wherever I walk I see the paperwhites blooming close to the ground.

Rebecca pointed out that the first of the pink rhododendron blossoms is on the bush at the front of the house.

On the subject of Victoria, B.C., I chatted with a woman who said her sister can't figure out why she would live in Victoria.  "Get out into the world where events and things are happening."

"Why would I want to do that," she replies to her sister.

"Then build a bridge so the rest of us from Seattle can come and see you."

"We don't want you to come."

And to me, when I told her I lived in Calgary the conversationalist said, "Why?"

A good question.  But I do.  My house in Calgary is coming close to being done.  At least as close as this picture.  Catherine predicts it will be good for me for the next ten years.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Do not profess undying love

The opera was everything I had imagined … and more. I will probably go back to the encore to catch what I missed the first time. I don’t think I have ever enjoyed the chorus more. They were situated on the stage so as to look as though they were part of a village in the Far East: repairing nets, weaving, giving a hair cut, getting a hair cut, mending clothes. I could hear the people behind me somewhat confused for the setting was now – a bill board was in the background, for example. That didn't bother me.  But having had read the review, I had the advantage of expecting that setting.
The Pearl Fishers

I didn’t get tired of the palate of colours used in the clothing of the villagers, nor of the clever staging. The princess arrived in a boat and it seemed as though the boat was floating on water. The overture was carried along by a visual on stage where by we could see three divers looking for pearls. The waves of the tsunami could have brought on sea sickness and the fire in the village at the end of the show was a great visual though morally disturbing. Do you really set fire to a village to save two people from an execution?   But that is just opera.

These older Victorians are nutty. They filled up two IMAX theatres. I could hear the clerk who was selling ticketks explaining that both of the theatres were sold out. A woman leaned over and said she wanted to get to the front of the line so that she could return a ticket. I bought it so that worked out for me.

While waiting for the show to begin a chatted a bit with the woman to my right. I was mocking the usher who let everyone into the theatre early. “Too cold for all of you stand outside. The theatre isn’t clean yet, but you could queue up in the mezzanine if you are willing to do that.”

“Too cold? A slight drizzle, no wind and about five above. In Alberta we call that spring.”

The woman to my left told me that she comes to the operas but she isn’t going to see Jane Eyre. I told her I had seen it once and was coming back to see it the second time later this month. She told me that she had discussed it with her friends in December and they had decided not to go to it. “Too long,” she said, “well over 3 hours”.  "Yes.  It used to be a two day show and they made them tighten it up before they brought it to London for the run there."  I told her that I was glad she wasn't coming for I wanted less people at the theatre and not more. She said, “Maybe I will call them up and say she should go."  Where did I go wrong in that conversation?

Committed to seeing the operas if I can, I am wondering how it is that I also think I have a right to that conversation with the singers after the first act, and the right to see how the second act stage is being set up. I love that part of the opera.  There were many interviews – not just with Nadir (Matthew Polenzani) and Zurga (Mariusz Kwiecien) but with Leila (Diana Damrau).

Gianandrea Noseda, the conductor, told us that when he opened the score and had looked at the first 3 pages he fell in love with the music and mined it for the pearls, the hidden pearls that are there. The mechanical apparatus that operated the pulleys from which the divers hung was shown and two of the people who are the divers were interviewed.

 A fabulous opera. Wonderful acting. A let down when the curtain has dropped and real life begins again – it is hard to match the colour and the sound of the opera in real life. As I was walking through the parking lot I heard an old man say to his partner, “The moral of the opera is do not profess undying love to anyone.” That made me laugh.


Saturday, January 16, 2016

Graduate Guests

Rebecca’s graduate class had to be switched to this evening, from their regular 9 to noon spot. She offered to have them come to her house and feed them pizza. On finding a couple of vegetarians in the class she switched the menu to Indian food, leaving a piece of paper on the counter for me in the morning, telling me what she wanted added to the dahl to make it perfect.

I was onside. We had shopped the night before at Save-On Foods. I was reminded again of how many steps it is to prepare food, starting with the menu planning, then the trip to the grocery store and in the case of vegetarians, there is a lot of chopping just to make a few dishes. For some reason every cut I took on an item seemed like a joy: a warm house, good knives, fresh vegetables, warm water coming from a tap, a gas stove, and a rice cooker. Joy.

I did laugh when I came to put the apples in the fennel salad and found that there were only three left.  I am sure she bought loads.  That is what comes of having two teen-age boys in the house.  Who knows which of the groceries that are planned for one meal will end up as a snack long before that meal comes to pass.

As an aside, everyt ime Rebecca or I use the apple cutter, we think of Anita Johnson.  She is the one who introduced us to the tool that cuts out the core of the apple and yields 8 perfect wedges.  I treated the tool with suspicion that summer, but was won over.  Today I broke the one I was using, which is only a recent replacement of the one before that got broken.  Are we using that tool that much?

I did a sweep of the top of the table on which we have our computers, books and papers. Stash that stuff somewhere … anywhere and make the top of the table into the food buffet.

The table is well loved. It has lost its varnish on some spots, a distressed table, useful for many projects over the years and still it keeps giving. Rebecca calls it her French provincial table. A black table cloth to cover the top of the table and one could imagine there is a French provincial table underneath.

I know to do the surface sweep of the house before the guests arrive. That means at least getting the toilet paper role replaced and maybe a few backups out in view. In my closet I hide the blankets and pillows that usually dot the couch for people who like to stretch out and have a nap. I do the mighty touch-up on my bedroom where people will lay their coats on my bed – hard to have it both picture perfect and useful to me when everyone leaves. Is this how everyone prepares for a party?

Rebecca explains to her students why we are using paper plates.

"We took a look at our dinnerware and discovered we don't have enough unchipped plates to serve everyone. I may be a law professor but we are still living like we are grad students. My mom told me to get some plates yesterday, but it just didn't work for me."

 She is right. I like to eat on glass. I wish there were good left-overs tonight and there is some food left. Just not enough to make a complete meal again.

And a good time was had by all.


Friday, January 15, 2016

Perfect Dishes

The chips and nicks on the plates we use at home are signaling that it is time for a new set of dishes. I did leg work for Rebecca, taking what she wants for new dishes, with what is possible to find.

A set that contains no mugs? Only a person who has thrown so much pottery and has her own set of mugs would be asking for that. And I found such a set at Canadian Tire. Too bad that the neon lime green color, or alternatively puke-red colour were the only choices. “I would go right off food in a week if I had to eat off of that colour ,” I told her.

A Pfaltzgraff set from London drugs? Everything was right. The ½ price. The fact that we could get 3 sets, and thus have twelve of everything. We had even figured out what to do with the mugs she didn’t want. Send one home with each of the grad students who are coming for dinner tonight.

The downside? They are so heavy. And will the bowls, the beautiful large cereal bowls with an extra rim on them, will those fit in the dishwasher? We got the sets right up to the cash before deciding, the answer is no, they won’t fit in the dishwasher and they are also too heavy for arthritic arms to lift in multiples out of the dishwasher.

And now I am watching the PBS special "In Defence of Food" that is telling us yet again, that people should begin to choose a 9 inch plate for the meals -- every meal.  Has such a set of dishes been designed?  And if so, would any of us buy them?

Where is the perfect set of dishes?


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Opening Doors

Rebecca and her colleagues went to traditional lands today, to a long house, for more training about how to work with the Truth and Reconciliation Report.

I went to school with Rebecca this morning  before her departure.  I was attending the third of her crim law classes this semester.

I sit in the second row from the front and am a group of my own. The rest of the class are in groups of sixes and sevens with specific names: The Group of Seven, Hogswarth Professors, Supreme Court Judges, Harry Potter’s Pets, etc. 

She told them that the relationships they build in their groups will be part of their capital as lawyers.  I gain no such riches.

They collaborate on answering the questions in the hand-outs. I work on my own.

Today they were told what will be on the final exam. Not that Rebecca has written it yet. But she gave them the shape of their final exam.

"A closed book exam."

The collective shoulders of the class slump.

"But you may bring in your Canadian Criminal Code Book (CCC)."

A gift. And then someone in the class opens their book (one of the only 2 people who have brought it to class) and says, “There are 50 empty pages in the CCC. Can we fill these in.”

"Yes," she says  "write your hearts out, fill up those pages, and you are also allowed to bring in a cheat sheet – two 81/2 x 14 inch sheets of paper. You may write on both sides in as small as 3 pt if you desire, in fact I urge you to think about the skeletal structure of what you have learned this year and have it on those 2 sheets.  And your book can be as heavily annotated as you choose.  Just no pull out sheets that are yards long, nor any fold out dioramas.”

I don't know if they get her humour yet, but I do.


Les pêcheurs de perles

Georges Bizet in the early 1860s,
at the outset of his career
as a composer of opera
I was trapped by utube today, first trying to find just a few arias or duets from The Pearl Fishers to listen to so that I will know the music on Saturday.

As one thing leads to another, then I found myself studying up on Bizet, and if that wasn’t enough I was off to Wiki to learn about the opera – the history, the libretto, the staging, even reading the iterations of people who have had starring roles.

At one point I was watching the duet “Au fond du temple saint” – not just watching it, but listening it sung by 3 different sets of tenors.  Domingo and Bocelli are hard to beat.

At one point I pulled out my earphones, begging Rebecca to listen along with me and spilling my water all over the table and my books. Opera is thrilling.  Spilling isn't that good.

 I read an article where Saturday's soprano (Diana Damrau) went to see some Mikimoto pearls – one perfectly matched string worth 1.1 million dollars, more than the opera cost to mount. The heroine doesn’t wear that perfectly matched set on stage, just a single pearl which can be seen by people at the back of the highest balcony at the Met.

I will be looking for that pearl during the performance.


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Pearl Fishers

Bizet's The Pearl Fishers
Curious about the Pearl Fishers, which will be shown on Saturday, I went to the New York Times to find the review for the show. That was one good part of my day – looking at the pictures, listening to a clip of the music, and making my way around the web to see how the underwater scenes are set up in the opera.

Rebecca went to have an x-ray this morning and since the lab had moved locations, that was another good part of my day, as we then went to both locations and had the added benefit of more time together in the car chatting.

Kim Burrows, the wife of one of Rebecca’s colleagues, came for an afternoon visit and then we were going to see the film, Brooklyn. We didn’t keep an eye on the clock and we missed the movie together, -- time flies when people who have a common interest get together to talk. She said maybe we can try for the movie next week. Three is a charm and that should have been enough good in the day.

Duncan came home with an award today. He has an exquisitely framed Certificate of Graduation from the Barton Reading and Spelling System. He is the 705 person to complete all Ten Levels and his certificate is signed by Susan Baron, herself. He was thrilled -- a fourth happiness for the day.

And the evening finished with a 7-11 run. I participated for the first time which was fun. Sad for me to find out that Rebecca keeps everyone to a $5.00 limit, even me. I wanted 2 bags of chips for $6 but I was only allowed 1 at $4.29. You can imagine how that hurts. The boys gathered stuff but she made them go to the till to see if they were over, and if they were, they had to change their choices. Ouch. 

Tomorrow will be a new day and I will get over my attempt to go over budget since 90% of the day went splendidly.


Monday, January 11, 2016

Walking and Water

I continue to walk since my new goal is four miles a day. Or at least four miles, some days. I am episodically watching the PBS special “In Defense of Food” and every time I watch I pick something else out from the film I can do. For example, eat only food that rots. That made me laugh, especially when Rebecca said she is sure that if she left red licorice out for long enough, it would rot. Dry out maybe, but no, not rot.

Back to walking -- I can get 90% of what I need with me about 90% of the time: some money, light gloves, a scarf, a telephone, my name on something in case I get lost and no one knows who I am, a package of Kleenex, a hat, and water.

By the time I think about water I go to the freezer thinking I will take the bottle of water I put there, since I want to top it up and have ice as well. But someone else has found it first and used it. So I grab the thermos container that Duncan uses to take soup to school in. I feel as though I have gone upscale – a stainless steel container and a beautiful lid and so what if I have to screw it off every time I drive. I will have water available.

Half way through the water I looked carefully at the water for it tastes different. Yes, little floaties are in the water -- from the cream of mushroom soup that had attached itself to the side of the container and then dried there. The thermos had jogged around so much on the ride that the substance is able to leave the sides of the container. I just didn’t give it a good scrubbing when I get home. I let it rest in vinegar overnight.

Hydration? I am going to get it right – nice clear cold water today when I walk.


Saturday, January 9, 2016

The newspaper -- electronically

I got interested in the NY Times this morning.  They had published 52 places to see in 2016.  I went through the list wondering if I could get to those places in a lifetime.  I discovered I have been to some of the places, maybe 10 or so.  And way down on the list, though listed in no particular order are the South Gulf Islands of British Columbia.  Some people in our house have been to two of them.

The scenery around them looks amazingly like what we see at the Shuswap.  Check it out at about #50 of places to see in 2016.  It could look like a view out of a window you have stood before.

Rebecca got interested in the topic of sentencing with respect to poachers.

I admit that the article she sent on to me was interesting, but maybe that is because she is letting me come to her crim law class.  This morning I was thinking, why audit, why not just take the class, do the exam and start working on the law degree I always wanted.  The trouble is ... I wanted too many things -- a law degree, a medical degree, a PhD ... in anything.

The world is a big place.  Hard not to want it all.


Friday, January 8, 2016

Full Saturdays

The baritone Peter Mattei, left, as Wolfram
and the tenor Johan Botha as his romantic rival,
the title character, in “Tannhäuser,”
conducted by James Levine
at the Metropolitan Opera.

I had some time to look at the internet today, trying to figure out when New York Met operas begin.

I looked for NT Live performances from London as well.

I added in the encores, since I like to go twice, even three times.

I looked for reviews for myself and for dates and times.

Tomorrow is Tannhäuser.  Here is the New York Times Review.

I read it once, but that is not enough to get me up to enough speed that I will really enjoy the performance.  So there is work ahead for me to do.  And even if I don't get prepared, why isn't it alright just to go and soak up what I can.

Coming Up
Jan 9 - Tannhauser - 4 hrs 15 min
Jan 16 - Pearl Fishers, 2 hrs, 54 min
Jan 23 - Jane Eyre 3 hrs 30 min (saw it once, going back)
Jan 30 - Turandot - 3 hrs 35 min
Feb 6 - Lulu 4 hrs 15 min (saw it once, going back -- chilling and compelling)
Feb 20 - Pearl Fishers (actually saw it for the first time in London at the Colesium)
Feb 27 - Dangerous Liaisons 3 hrs, 30 min

A big thank you to Catherine Jarvis who was the first one to tell me to go to these events.

Another thank you to friends and family who have accompanied me along the way:  Lurene Bates, Tonia Bates, Charise Bates, Wyona Bates, Fazeel Kayyum, Duncan Carter-Johnson, Alex Carter-Johnson,  The Doral and Anita Johnson Kids (Meighan, Ceilidh, Dalton), The Jarvis Kids (Rebecca, Catie, Thomas), Trell Johnson, and Ina Given.  The more names I type, the more I think of, so to the others, leave me a comment and remind me which shows we saw for it has all been fun.

Maybe the moment that goes deepest into my heart has been when another audience member stops me in the hall or on the theatre stairs and says, "I see you are here with your grandchildren.  You are lucky."

I know I am fortunate.



I'll take the one on the left.
You eat the one on the right.
I have been longing for chips – the kind that you can get in the food court at Costco.

That is an old habit for those grandchildren – stopping there before getting groceries. Michael and Alice know the trip to Costco as “going to the hot dog store”. Their parents discard the buns and let the kids go at the long piece of meat. When I go there, I just want the chips – not the poutine, not the fish – I just want the carbs, fat and salt.

Giving in to the craving, I stopped by the local fish and chips store which I have been eyeing since I got here. It is behind the 7-11 and I slipped in there on my walk home from grocery shopping yesterday.

“May I have a bag of chips.”

“We don’t sell them without the fish – that will be $10.95, the lunch special.”

I just couldn’t do it.

 Apparently some cravings can be trumped by packaging and cost.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A Nagging Suspicion

“Have you ever had a nagging suspicion that you have forgotten something?”

I don’t like it when a conversation between Rebecca and me starts this way. I don’t know where it is going, except that it can’t be to any place that is good.

“That is why I am putting on this music right now,” she continued. And the strains of Handel’s Messiah began to float to the kitchen where I was making a stir-fry.

“I forgot to put this on during the holiday season. So here it is now. And by the way, you can put that stir-fry together so quickly, compared to what I would have to do: go find a recipe, see if I had the ingredients, find the right pot.”

She didn’t know I had done much of that before we left the house for her class this morning: take the chicken out of the freezer to begin thawing; check to see if there were enough vegetables in the fridge; figure out if the ginger was fresh enough and if there was a toe of garlic on the counter. And all of that before I began to do the chopping. I reminded Rebecca that taking the Continuing Education Class on Chinese Cooking might have been one of the best classes I ever took, in terms of the whole family getting the benefit of the class over forty years ago.

We did 30 recipes in the class and I probably still make 15 of them – and those off by heart, which is only evidence I should have quit making the food sooner.

... the wok that doesn't owe me any money ...
What would my life have been like if I hadn’t done egg foo yung, Cantonese chow mein, pineapple chicken, fried rice, ginger fried beef or today’s special – a stir fry. How many hours would that have saved, which might have been more profitably spent having manicures or pedicures?

I remember the teacher making two comments about Chinese food. One was that it is the best value for your money when you go out to eat, for it represents so much prep by way of cutting and chopping. The second comment was in answer to a statement from one of my classmates who said, “Your lucky relatives. They must love to come to your house to eat?”

The teacher said, “Are you kidding me. I don’t do this for my relatives. When they come over I just pop a turkey in the oven – much easier.”

I should have cooked more turkeys.



"It is so nice to  come here to clean," said Dave as he was doing the house yesterday morning.  He was surrounded by his cleaning equipment and we had been commenting on the wonderful smell, even imagining that the smell of a clean house would make a wonderful cologne.

"Nice," he went on, "because you don't clean before I get here.  I feel useful.  Some places I go, it is already so clean, I wonder what it is they want me to do."

"A compliment," I said to Rebecca.

"No.  A comment," she replied.  "As fast as you and I can sweep, mop, do washing, cook food, clean up the kitchen, do the bathrooms, we still have to have Dave come.  No amount of cleaning before he comes can make him wonder what he should do here."


Monday, January 4, 2016


Do you have a favourite pancake recipe?

Do you have a favourite pancake story?

David and I have made a list of things he can learn to cook independently. Pancakes are on that list.

Arta suggested I try out the 100% whole wheat pancake recipe perfected by America's Test Kitchen. I love that they have information you can read, or you can watch a video of them being made with a commentary. They also give the science behind what makes them great. What more could you ask for ... other than waking to the smell of pancakes.


Kitchen Selfie. David gets to learn to cook in two kitchens. 
It can be hard to remember where each item is kept.

Oct 17, 2015

What lies ahead is on David's mind.

When he and I set out to find a recipe on the web for him to try out, he corrected my search term.

I had entered "cooking" and "9 year olds". He said, "You mean 10 year olds.  My birthday is coming up soon, you know."

Yes, December is just around the corner.

So is Middle School.
Skyping is so much easier than a phone call. The thought of not knowing
what to say can be overwhelming, as can having to rely soley on hearing.

A close friend from his grade 4/5 split class is now at the  school he will attend in Fall 2016.

David is actively seeking the insider scoop.

They have set up a weekly Skype session.

The first Skype session after school began was filled with  questions.

"Who is your home room teacher?"

Preparing for the future.

"What were the hallways like?"

Soon after, David explained to his father, "You know I will be needing my own key to the apartment soon."

When I bought this key chain in 2006, I was imagining bringing him home from the hospital for the first time, not of him asking for his own key for the first time.


In preparation for Middle School, David has been thinking about what snacks he will make for himself. I have been thinking about how to best prepare him for that. I  have enlisted help from Katie Rinald, Board Certified Behavior Consultant. She is an expert in figuring out how to break down a skill into smaller pieces, and help people learn them them.

The goal for him:  gain confidence and independence in cooking, and cooking safety.
The goal for me:   learn how to fade out supports, how to "support" me not being in a supporting role.

Katie comes from Vancouver to Salmon Arm every few months or so for face-to-face help. Other times her support is via Skype.

My first session was Katie interviewing me about what has worked in the past for cooking lessons and what hasn't. It seems so simple in hindsight, but I was feeling very stuck. I committed myself to setting aside dedicated times (2-3 times a week), time when neither David and I were hungry nor tired. Also, cooking tied to social plans (time with cousins, having a friend over) is highly motivating to him.

Our homework this week was to email her 12 items David might like to learn to cook. Here it is:

Hi Katie,

Me and my mom made this list of foods for "Cooking with Katie".  Here's what I have already practiced. I could pretty much do them on my own. The main things I need are 'instructions' and 'where things are' and 'what things are'. For example,  sometimes I forget what a sauce pan is and I think it is the thing I use to drain instead of cook.
1. Mac n Cheese.
2. Toast.
3. Pizza - frozen (homemade with help)
4. Cereal.
5. Hotdogs.
6. Grilled cheese.
7. Panini.
 This next list is of things I have made with help.
1. Cauliflower or broccoli with cheese sauce.
2. Cake.
3. Pancakes
 Other things I would like to learn how to cook.
1. Egg, cheese, and sausage breakfast sandwich.
2. Scambled eggs.
3. Cheese Omlet.
4. Brownies.
5. Sweet potatoes
6. Nacho chips with cheese on top.
7. Mashed potatoes.
8. Hamburgers.
Next Tuesday when we Skype could you help me with cauliflower with cheese sauce? The stove top part is hard for me for, both cauliflower and sauce.

When you come [the week after], would you like me to make you pancakes or a cake?

Like grandmother, like grandson

David has discovered the power that can be unlocked by reading a cookbook in his leisure time. He calls this smoothie creation, "Blueberry Delight".

We have created a "Smoothie Creation Equipment drawer" at the Lake. So all you cousinshould,  bring your favorite recipes for Summer 2016. 

Christmas 2015 - David Style

We couldn't find the Tio that Aunt Montse gave to us when I was little, so we had to improvise using my new stuffy - sprinkles. He is a caterpillar that I got at the dollar store. In this photo, my dad and I were about to unveil the cover on the Cago Tio. 

This year the Tio brought me a lot of modelling clay, a 3-D puzzle, Kraft Bendable Building Sticks, Geometric Rulers (my favourite is the sxx), sticky notes, a lot of blank recipe cards, three different pencil sharpeners, coloured wooden blocks, a glow sticks that turns into eye glasses, a lot of pencils, a bow compass and divider, five rectangular erasers, and a round eraser.

Round One of a Catalonian Tradition

Round Two of a Catalonian Tradition

Round Three of a Catalonian Tradition

David carries the Caga Tio log -- improvised, since he couldn't find his original log.

A hit of a gift from Joaquim:  The National Geographic Cookbook
...a  holiday drink, without the proverbial moustache ...

Read Recipes and Eat -- an all year tradition extended to the holidays

A warm drink and reading the pages of a new recipe book.

Wondering what to cook next?

Supersmash Brothers WII

 ...a well loved gift, every family should have two or three...

Lego Fun

... a loved gift ....

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Pigs in a Blanket

... proofing on the counter ...
I was invited to facetime into the noisiest household ever. Teen-age kids surrounding a long table – kids who have been playing board games for two days. “We offered to take them to the movies, but they are preferring what is going on around this table,” the parents explained to me.

“This phone call is really because you forgot to teach me how to roll buns,” said Mary, “though we also thought you might be homesick for a little of this kind of noise.”

“What! I taught so many people how to do roll buns. And you know how to make bread. How can you not know?”

... making snails out of bread dough ...
“I don’t know,” Mary went on. “I made this bread by hand, but if you were to watch me today, you would know I don’t know at all how to roll the buns. And she proved it by trying to pinch some of the bottoms of the buns closed.

“Move over,” said Catherine, “and I will demo for you.”

I couldn’t help but add that it is time for both of them to roll those buns with the left hand and the right hand simultaneously. That is not about the art of homemaking, but about the art of getting the job done twice as quickly.

The littlest ones in the house had been busy making snakes and snails out of bread dough all morning.

“Have you tasted the dough,” I asked one, and she looked at her mother questioningly.

“Good ahead, try it,” said that mom.

... checking to see if these are ready to take out of the oven ...
... from the photo it is apparent which buns used to hold cheese ...
Mary had another confession about the bread dough. While she makes the pigs in a blanket, she has also been known to roll cheese in the centre of buns as well. “No. It doesn’t really work. The dough rises high, the cheese stays on the bottom, the cheese oozes out as it cooks, but some of the kids like it that way. So I do it.”

We talked for a while about the price of flour. Catherine’s last 20 pound bag cost nearly $18.00.   Ouch.

We talked for a while about Mary’s bread machine which was given to Catherine, for Catherine uses it. “But that is ancient history,” said Catherine. “The machine will still make the dough, but doesn’t automatically cook it.  That sucks for her.

A lot of fun, made out of yeast, water and flour.


Gingerbread Houses

... as is, in the box, ready to go ...
Mary and Leo usually go to Montreal for Christmas.

This year their holiday there was for the coming of the New Year.

Over the years a tradition has developed around gingerbread houses.

The women make the gingerbread, carefully cut the pieces, glue them together with royal icing and then the fun for the kids begins.
... the candy sorted and contaionerized ...

This year Mary happened on a gingerbread house sale, the day after Christmas.

Boxes that were regularly $12 were now on sale for $1 a box.
... royal icing, the glue that never fails ...

There were fifteen boxes in the store.

Mary had a hard time justifying only buying 7 of them, but that is the number of cousins who would be interested in making them.

The kits came with the houses pre constructed, glued, with royal icing and with candy in the box.

Hard not to think this might have been Mary’s best Christmas treat ever.
... all in a row ...

A lot of labour saved in that after Christmas sale.


Good Nativity Sets

From Catherine:

From Fatima Glowa to Catherine Jarvis
We took a few photos of Fatima Glowa's gift to me this Christmas.

You  can see it glued to a bigger board using royal icing.

I debated saving the crèche, but two cute little girls asked to eat the cookies.

I couldn't refuse.

Interestingly, no one wanted to eat Mary, Joseph or the baby Jesus.

The animals and the wisemen weren't so lucky.

Fatima says she will make me more animals and secondary characters next year.


Saturday, January 2, 2016

The old artificial Scotch pine

Decades ago – maybe even three of them – I bought an artificial Scotch pine for Christmas. The cost was high. I was counting that in the long run there would be money saved. That tree has been recycled now, but I was flooded with memories of it, as I took the decorations off of the beautiful fresh hemlock that was decorated in this house.

The decorations don't make this a designer tree. It carries home-made ornaments like the one made out of popsicle sticks, a little photo in the middle of Duncan, dated Daycare 2002. There are other kinds of decorations that must have come from Verlaine – “Baby’s First Christmas”, a soft blue egg encrusted with pearls.

Who does not have some felt decorations through which one puts a candy cane and then the felt looks like the head of a reindeer?

Maybe I don't have those anymore, but I am sure ones like this used to hang on my tree.

Rebecca also has some decorations that are to be plugged in and then they will either rotate or light up.  The string into which they are to be plugged is long gone.

Trees are easier to get down, than to put up. I could walk around the tree taking the lights off.   I circled it many tines.  I was enjoying the feeling of the soft branches against my arms and the lovely smell that comes with being so close to the tree. I wanted to keep the tree up longer, since we had a late start.  Or maybe I wanted to keep it up so that the holidays could be extended for we have had restful ones.   On the island there are rules about how quickly those trees have to be taken to the land fill. This is the weekend, whether I want Christmas to continue or not.


Friday, January 1, 2016

A New Year's Day Walk

 ...view of the ocean from Dallas Road ...
The house is full of the smell of warm dilly bread.

I thumbed by Molly McBride’s recipe a number of times as I looked in the Manna on the Prairies Cookbook.

The self-published recipe books are like a visit with old friends, for they carry with them the memories of all of the people who submitted this recipe or that one. The cottage cheese has been in the fridge – only half eaten, and this morning I was doing one of those jiffy fridge cleans – a cloth for wiping up easy stains and pulling out half cartons of food that could be eaten – or that could be left for a few more weeks – usually not a good idea.
... two black kites sailing in the wind from the ocean ...

We took a long walk down Dallas Road – really a long paved walk along the ocean.

Seven kites were flying in the wind, high above us, when we stepped out of our car.

More kite flyers had joined the crowd, when we got back, the four people who had similar kites had been practising flying them in formation. We walked nearly to the breakwater – it was within seeing distance when I turned to go back.

Many family has dogs with them, beautiful tall poodles and some dogs so little, I can’t imagine how their owners don’t loose them. Some of the dogs were wearing coats in brilliant colours of red or pink. Some of the dogs were on leashes. We laughed at one little dog who trotted along between the couple it seemed to belong to. Duncan and Alex say they love the look of the bulldogs – that flattened face as though it has just run into a door.

Steve made the call yesterday about the weather: I think it is going to freeze. There are small patches of ice where water has been standing, and some frost on the grass or on the pavement where the sun hasn’t had a chance to shine. Gulls were everywhere at the beach – in the air and on the water. Some were lined up on the top of a roof. “Are those real,” asked Duncan for they looked more like an exterior art/sculpture piece, the birds an even distance from each other and all looking the same way.  But then we saw a couple of them fly away.
 ... Arta and Duncan stroll by the water ...

We stopped to have our picture taken at a sign that said, “Victoria, Mile 0”.

That is about as far as a person can go in Canada, without stepping off dry land and into the water.

Rebecca told us her resolution for the year, by saying she was going to start small: exercise once a week.

She might do better than that, having signed up for some deep-water exercise, and today – taking the lovely walk along the edge of the ocean.

I like making resolutions as well. But I can’t settle on one. I would like to write more – even read more would be a treat.

... the sun reflects off of a small body of water, some of it frozen ...
 The next time we take a long walk, all of us want to take along a bottle of water.

The first thing we went to, when we got home was the tap.

And then those of us who like meat enjoyed the day old leg of lamb that was slow-cooked yesterday. Now that is the way to start off the new year.

A resolution and then a good meal.